This template is for journalists seeking to compel a state agency to turn over records requested under MGDPA. The template provides a general outline for complaints filed in district court with areas for editing in brackets. MGDPA does not require requests to be in writing, and it offers three remedies for denials:
1. Request an opinion from the Commissioner of Administration.1
Either a person or an agency may request an opinion from the Commissioner of Administration on an agency’s data practices. These opinions are nonbinding, but courts are required to defer to the Commissioner’s opinion. In contrast, if the agency complies with the Commissioner’s opinion, courts cannot hold it liable for fines, attorney’s fees, or other penalties.
The Commissioner must notify the requestor within five days if he does not intend to issue an opinion. Otherwise, he is required to issue an opinion within twenty days, although he has the option to extend that deadline by thirty days for good cause upon written notice.
2. File a complaint with the Office of Administrative Hearings.2 (Replaces judicial remedies)
A person may file a complaint with the Office of Administrative Hearings (“OAH”) to compel compliance within two years of a violation. The assigned Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) must decide within twenty days if the complainant proved the violation by probable cause, and if so, schedule a hearing within thirty days and issue a decision within ten days of the hearing.
OAH proceedings have a rebuttable presumption that the prevailing complainant is entitled to attorney’s fees not to exceed $5,000. If the Commissioner issued an opinion on the same controversy and the agency failed to comply, the OAH must award attorney’s fees.
Complainants may request reconsideration by the chief ALJ of findings of no probable cause. Complainants may appeal final decisions of the OAH to the Court of Appeals.
3. File a complaint with the state district court.3 (If did not file with OAH)
Parties must file complaints in the county where they reside or where the agency is located but may file in any county when suing the state.4 A person may file a complaint with the state district court to compel compliance with the MGDPA. The court may award costs and disbursements, including reasonable attorney’s fees. If the Commissioner issued an opinion on the same controversy and the agency failed to comply, the court must award reasonable attorney’s fees.
1 Minn. Stat. § 13.072.
2 Id. § 13.085.
3 Id. § 13.08.